Green City, Clean Waters Gets Recognition from World of Architecture

Building Sustainability into Philly's Bones: AIA Pennsylvania Honors Green City, Clean Waters for contribution to architecture.

In Northern Liberties, honeybees drink nectar from native flowers found in a stormwater bumpout at 3rd Street and Fairmount Avenue.

In Point Breeze, kids play basketball on a court that also helps soak up and clean stormwater from the surrounding area.

On Eadom Street in Northeast Philly, patients find therapeutic value in caring for rain gardens that dot the parking lot of their health facility.

Looking across the city, it’s fair to say that Philadelphia’s efforts to protect local waterways from pollution through the use of neighborhood-based green tools has garnered fans who might not usually appreciate a well-designed piece of infrastructure.

On November 10, our Green City, Clean Waters program was being honored by another community not often associated with stormwater management—architects.

Venice Island Lands 'Environmental Project of the Year' Award

Renderings (at left) of the Performing Arts Center and Head House compared to the finished buildings, at right.
Renderings (at left) of the Performing Arts Center and Head House compared to the finished buildings, at right. Image credit: Hazen and Sawyer.

We’re extremely proud of the way Philadelphia Water’s construction team and engineers made what was once just a grand idea—the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center—into a reality.

It’s hard not to admire their work when you see that sloping, living green roof from Main Street in Manayunk, and it gets even better when you explore the facility up close.

So, it’s no surprise that the work at Venice Island, which was completed at the end of 2014, was just named “Environmental Project of the Year” by the Construction Management Association of America’s Mid-Atlantic chapter. The award was presented for the “Manayunk Venice Island Sewer Basin Construction/Performing Arts and Recreation Center Reconstruction” on June 2 to Philadelphia Water and Hazen and Sawyer, the project’s designer of record.

“This award recognizes Philadelphia Water’s role in providing construction management services that promoted professionalism in the construction process and resulted in a successful project,” said Philadelphia Water Construction Manager Bob Rotermund. “Our team, led by Jim Giffear and Attasit Kaewvichen, kept the project within budget and on schedule.”

Giffear, a Division Engineer in Philadelphia Water’s Construction Branch, said the project was a special one because it brought so many positive changes to the area, which sits between the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River.

“We were able to construct a facility which serves to protect the Schuylkill River from combined sewer overflows during large storm events, while at the same time providing an amazing recreation and entertainment space for the citizens of Philadelphia,” said Giffear. “[Philadelphia Water Commissioner] Howard Neukrug was instrumental in creating the partnerships between the various city agencies and community groups necessary for Venice Island to become a reality.”

Giffear said this award reflects Philadelphia Water’s commitment to quality management of its construction projects, community engagement, and partnerships with city agencies.

“What makes this project unique is the construction of a true multiple-use site. On one side of the island sits a wastewater pumping station, underground is a 4 million gallon basin, and up above houses basketball courts, an outdoor amphitheater, children’s spray park, and a 250-seat performing arts center, with public parking throughout,” said Giffear. “The CMAA award is in recognition of the technical and logistical challenges faced by such a multifaceted project, and the teamwork, professionalism, quality control, and communication necessary to make it a success.”

That CMAA highlighted the environmental aspects of the Venice Island work also speaks to Philadelphia Water’s commitment to green stormwater management initiatives and environmentally conscious building materials and methods, Giffear also noted.

Leo Dignam, deputy commissioner for programs at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, said the Performing Arts Center has also been a huge hit.

“We are thrilled at how it turned out and have been booked almost from the day we took over,” said Dignam. “The outside space and environmental features are extraordinary and go above and beyond what we would ever have been able to do on our own. I think this project is a model of the way city departments can coordinate with the community.”

Some Green Highlights from Venice Island:

• Countless sustainable site and building features throughout Venice Island. The basin, in addition to being an environmentally focused infrastructure improvement, includes a pump station which is LEED eligible. The building is furnished with a high-tech window system that makes maximum use of natural light and reduces heat gain, promoting energy efficiency in the facility. Atop the pump house sits a green roof containing drought tolerant plant species which minimize the stormwater impact of the building.

• The site features numerous green design components. There are several rain garden systems which collect street-level stormwater runoff and allow it to slowly infiltrate in place, before returning it to the sewer system. Boulders were reclaimed from earlier excavation activities and repurposed for landscape features. Additionally, the site lights are all low voltage LED fixtures, which are controlled by photocells and are only illuminated when necessary.

• The Performing Arts Center likewise contains numerous sustainable design features, such as a green roof. Stormwater that falls on the building is collected and stored in “graywater” holding tanks. That captured stormwater is then reused in the facility for non-potable applications.

Hazen and Sawyer’s Work at Venice Island

As “designers of record” at Venice Island, Hazen and Sawyer designed an innovative, LEED Silver-eligible structure to house the equipment associated with the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) detention facilities, comprised primarily of a concrete basin that receives flows by gravity when the adjacent interceptor becomes surcharged during storm events. The CSO detention basin was constructed underground, with public parking and facilities redesigned and restored atop the basin.
The Head House that sits atop the basin is a LEED Silver-eligible building with numerous energy-saving and sustainable design measures.

Hazen and Sawyer’s design includes a “living” roof system with drought-resistant plantings; rain gardens throughout the site to manage storm water runoff; a glass stair tower to allow light to enter all sides of the building and reduce the need for interior lighting; light and occupancy sensors for energy efficiency; shade and reflection devices for sun control that reduces the need for air conditioning; and water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

Award Acknowledgements: Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Robert Rotermund (Manager, Construction Branch), Mike Lavery (Manager, Design Branch), Attasit Kaewvichien (Division Engineer, Construction Branch), Tony Kopicki (Asst. Manager, Construction Branch), Jim Giffear (Division Engineer, Construction Branch) and Anant Rao (Electrical Engineer, Construction Branch)

2014 Philly Fun Fishing Fest

Enjoy the last bit of your summer with family and friends at the 2014 Philly Fun Fishing Fest, where everyone is welcome to catch and release fish on Saturday, September 6th from 7 A.M. to 11 A.M.  Anyone can take part in this friendly competition held on Schuylkill Banks (by the Walnut Street Bridge) and have a chance to win prizes in multiple categories during the award ceremony at 11:30 A.M. A fishing license is not needed for the competition. Fishing equipment will be offered for loan on a first-come, first-served basis. *This is the 10 year anniversary for the Philly Fun Fishing Fest, so come out and help us celebrate.

Registration and Releaseof Liability are required to fish at the Fishing Fest. The registration must be completed ahead of time and the release form must be brought on the day of the event in order to participate.

The last day to register is Thursday, September 4th and the scheduled rain date is Saturday, September 13th. For more information, please call: 215-685-6300.

American Planning Association Awards for Excellence in Sustainability

Image Credits: WRT, Paseo Verde is one example of a Philadelphia project that uses sustainable stormwater management practices.

For the first time, the American Planning Association (APA) Sustainable Communities Division is offering awards for Excellence in Sustainability. Hurry! The deadline for application is March 31st. Let’s get a Philadelphia project in the running. Based on submissions to the Philadelphia Water Department’s Plan Review office, we know there are many developers in the City committed to sustainable building. The 2014 Awards for Excellence in Sustainability honors those projects, policies, plans and people who show exemplary scholarship, leadership and inspiration in sustainability planning and implementation.

Categories for these awards include:

  • Sustainable Development Project
  • Sustainable Building Project
  • Sustainable Park, Recreation or Open Space Project
  • Green Infrastructure Project
  • Sustainable Policy, Law or Plan
  • Leadership in Sustainability
  • Emerging Leader’s Sustainability Plan or Project

The application is open to all those who wish to apply. Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report or ordinance entered must have occurred in United States or Canada and been published within the last 3 years. Each submission may only be submitted to one category per year.

For more information and to apply, click here.

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